5 Ways to Support LGBTQ+ Mental Health
Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is not easy, and it’s not because of sexual orientation but rather how this population is stigmatized and treated by society. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among LGBTQ+ youth. There is no question a lot of work needs to be done to be more inclusive, considerate, open and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community.
June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month and a great time to focus on what more we can do to create change in our world. Whether you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally, at CW Psychological Services we have put together a list of five things we all can do to support LGBTQ+ mental health. Here they are:
1.) Respect Identity —
Let’s be real here. We all have a personal identity. It is what makes us “us” and nobody should be denied the right to live fully in their identity. No one should feel the need to hide who they are or conform to others’ beliefs of who they think they should be. We all deserve the freedom to be ourselves. If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, respecting your identity could mean allowing yourself to be you. For those outside the LGBTQ+ community, there is much that can be done to respect the identity of those around you.
That means using the proper pronouns and identifying people by their chosen names, studies show this simple act can save lives. It means affirming the way members of the LGBTQ+ community choose to live. It also means letting go of assumptions especially those about gender of spouses/partners.
2.) Find an Affirming Therapist —
Whether for yourself as a member of the LGBTQ+ community or as a friend or family member, finding an affirming therapist is key to taking care of mental health. Everyone needs someone in their corner who knows the proper ways to offer support and provide guidance. At CW Psychological Services we regularly work with LGBTQ+ individuals and their families to facilitate healing, growth, and comfort in personal identity.
3.) Know the Signs of Mental Illness —
Mental illness is complicated and can be hard to understand and diagnose. Knowing the signs that you or someone you care for could be struggling with mental illness can go a long way towards healing. Symptoms like excessive feelings of sadness or worry, confused thinking, trouble concentrating, extreme mood changes (drastic highs and lows), prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger, avoiding friends or social activities, changes in sleeping habits, or feeling low on energy, abusing drugs or alcohol, and more can be signs that a person needs help.
Find information and resources from The Trevor Project, which provides a national, 24-hour, toll-free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth: 866-488-7386. Or, check out It Gets Better Project, a campaign to share hopeful, inspiring stories.
4.) Create Awareness Within Yourself and Teach to Others —
We all have certain habitual behaviors. We all have things we say or do without even thinking about them, but these actions can sometimes cause harm to others. Things like not asking what pronouns a person would like to be identified by, failing to use a proper name, directing a person to the wrong restroom, or assuming the gender of a spouse/partner can be microaggressions, causing harm to others. By educating yourself and spreading the word to those around you, those actions can be corrected and you can offer better mental health support to the LGBTQ+ community.
If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community it can also be helpful to identify ways to address these issues as they come up and determine some ways you can educate others. Every small step counts. If you struggle with how to approach situations like this, the counselors, therapists, and associate clinicians at CW Psychological Services can help provide guidance and suggestions to help you through these uncomfortable situations.
5.) Listen and Share —
So many mental health struggles come from not sharing, holding it all in, feeling alone, and discouraged. If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, find someone you can feel comfortable sharing with. Share whatever you are comfortable sharing. Emotional support from others is a huge step towards healing.
If you are not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, be a listening ear. Be supportive. Work on listening without judgment. Understand that you can’t possibly understand all that they are going through, and respect that it is not about you. Maintain their privacy. Anything they share is deeply personal and is theirs to share, not yours.
A lot has changed over the years, but there is still a whole lot of work to be done. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, direct them to a counselor, therapist, or another mental health professional that can help provide coping tools.
Ready to begin counseling in Pennsylvania?
Counselors and associate-level clinicians at CW Psychological Services are professionally trained. We have openings for online, or telehealth, therapy appointments. Email us at [email protected] or call at (610) 308-7575. We are here for you.